The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has sentenced a Roman Catholic priest to 15 years in prison for his role in the 1994 genocide.

It is the first time a Roman Catholic priest has been tried by the UN's war crimes court for Rwanda, which is based in neighbouring Tanzania.

The ICTR found Father Athanase Seromba guilty on two of four counts he faced in connection with the genocide in which some 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, died.

Chief judge Andrefia Vaz found Fr Seromba guilty of genocide and extermination and sentenced him to 15 years.

He was acquitted on lesser counts of complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide.

Seromba, a 43-year-old Hutu, had pleaded not guilty to the charges that stemmed notably from the destruction of his parish church in the western town of Nyange, where some 2,000 Tutsi faithful had sought shelter in April 1994.

He was accused of ordering the church levelled by bulldozers, which led to the deaths of all inside, and instructing radical Hutu militia to shoot Tutsis who tried to flee the carnage.

Seromba had claimed he was a simple parish priest and powerless to stop the killing.

Prosecutors had called for the priest to be given the court's maximum sentence of life in prison.